Sunday, October 30, 2011
Saturday, October 29, 2011
C.S.Lewis 'Mere Christianity' page 46
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Yesterday I had the joy of teaching through a portion of the gospel of Mark. It's a very familiar passage and we often miss the point that God is making. Here is the passage we worked through and an e-mail dialogue that followed this morning. I hope these thoughts help you as you face your storms,
Mark 4:35-41- That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
Mary: I loved your sermon yesterday, but if I understood you correctly, there was one aspect of it that seemed contrary to beliefs I have always held, so I wanted to ask you about it. You seemed to indicate the God sends all the storms into our lives for the purpose of molding our character and teaching us to trust Him. Did I get that wrong?
Mike: Not entirely. What I was trying to communicate is that whether the storm comes from God by his doing OR from the enemy by God’s allowing, the purpose of the storm for God is that we discover him more fully. He doesn’t bring every storm, but sorting out whether it’s from God or the enemy isn’t the main thing. The main thing is that we respond by seeking to trust and know God better through the storm.
Mary: I have always explained away the "bad things happen to good people" occurrences by the fact that we live in a fallen world where we are negatively affected (storms) by sickness, disease and sin that resulted from Adam and Eve's original sin. I thought that most of the storms in our lives resulted from sinful choices that we and others around us make, satanic attacks, or just the decay of a fallen world. I had always thought that God can and does intervene at times to answer the prayers of those who seek Him during the storms; and sometimes chooses not to answer our prayers for intervention because of the greater good that only he can see.
Mike: First of all, in reality, there are no good people (a theology thing here), but to the bigger issue- we focus on the question “Don’t you care?” What I was trying to change yesterday is to a focus on “Who is this?” I wanted to move the discussion away from US to a focus on HIM. Either he is causing the storm or he is allowing the storm, either way he has a goal in mind for the Christian and that is that we know him and trust him more. Through each storm we will grow in faith or grow in bitterness or depression. It will be one or the other. Faith if we look to him, bitterness and depression if we look at us, our poor circumstance, our sad lives and the storms we are in….IF we focus on “Don’t you care?” we will lose faith and become bitter, depressed. IF, instead we focus on who is this that brought this storm, or allowed it, what is he working on in my life? Then, my results will be a larger faith and closer walk with him. When storms come my question is never “Don’t you care?” or “Why are you doing this to me?”, but rather my question focuses on this- “Lord, what are we working on here? What are you doing in my life? How can I know you better through this?” It’s a matter of whether we focus on the Lord or on the storm. The results will be completely different.
Mary: So I guess I have always seen it as: God allows the storms, and is there for us in the midst of them when we call on Him; but not that he "causes" or "brings" all the storms to us. Can you help me reconcile my thinking?
Mike: You know, I honestly don’t always know the source of the storms in my life. Are they from God or the enemy? I’ve found it doesn’t matter. IF God brought it he has something good in mind for me. IF God ALLOWED it he still has something good in mind for me, so the source isn’t my worry. What I must focus on is the one I trust and reply, “Lord, here I am, what would you have me do in this storm? How do you want to reveal yourself to me through this?” And whether from his hand or the enemy God can work because he would never allow something in my life that he didn’t plan to work out for his glory, so the source isn’t my concern, just my response to him. Does that help a little?
Just remember, it's not about the storm, it's all about him.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
A dear old saint and friend died early this morning. He was 93. In just a few weeks he would have reached 94. His house caught fire yesterday and partially burned. Worried about him I went out to his house to check on him. Amid the fire trucks and firemen I find my old friend Norm. He's well and sorting out what to do about insurance and other necessary things. We visited for a bit. I made sure he was safe, and we talked about where he would stay last night. He has sons in the area and he told me he would stay with one of his sons.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
There are some beautiful passages in Psalms that speak of God's rule over his universe, but this morning may I focus on just the first line of Psalm 97? The passage is a wonderful worship passage rich with praise for God's work and power, but this very first line in the chapter has a richness that stands alone.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Saturday, October 15, 2011
We stand in an unbroken historical line straight back to Jesus. And it is Jesus who many times attested to the truth and reliability of scripture as given by God Himself. ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Matthew 4:4 ESV And He was quoting Old Testament scripture when He said that. And in another place He testified, “the Scripture cannot be broken.” John 10:35 And in that wonderful scene on the Emmaus Road after the Resurrection, Jesus walked along with the two disciples “and beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27 The Old Testament scriptures are about Jesus.
The New Testament scriptures are also about Jesus—all of them. It was He who inspired them and gave them authority. Jesus told the disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Mt. 28:18 ESV The night before He died, Jesus told the disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit who would “bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” So it was the authoritative words of Jesus that brought about the New Testament. He told the disciples that they had two Comforters or “paracletos” “called alongside to help” first Jesus and then the Holy Spirit. “I will not leave you as orphans,” He told them, “I will come to you.” And He came in the person of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit inspired or “God-breathed” all the New Testament scriptures as well as the Old Testament.
So everything centers around Jesus Himself, including the inspiration of scripture, “that in all things he might have the preeminence.” Colossians 1:18 That's why we can sing, “From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.” Be thankful that you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and that He gave us the scriptures and preserved them for two thousand years so that you were able to hear the gospel and were convicted by the Holy Spirit so that He brought you to Christ.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
We have had an unusual number of days this year over 100 degrees. It's been hot! I'm amazed at how hard it is for me to be content with my circumstances, with the heat. If it's too hot, I wish it were cooler. If it's too cold, I wish it were warmer. If it's raining, I wish it weren't. If we go through a drought (as we have), we all pray for rain. We seem to enjoy being discontent. We just recently got back from a mission trip to Russia, and when asked how the trip went my first response is, "it was really hot." Why is my focus on my comfort, my contentment? Why do we all verbalize our discontent and everyone understands what we feel?
Why is it so hard for us to be content? I hear it from everyone I spend any length of time with, "If I only had ____________." Now, they may have a nice home, food, great kids, cars, enough to get by, but there is always that "one more thing" that will make them content.
We all struggle with it, and it has been a problem since the garden of Eden. In every country I have traveled the struggle for contentment is alive and well.
This morning I was reading Psalm 78 as the author recites the history of Israel and their sins. It's interesting how he views it as he writes,
Psa 78:16 He brought forth streams also from the rock And caused waters to run down like rivers.
Psa 78:17 Yet they still continued to sin against Him, To rebel against the Most High in the desert.
Psa 78:18 And in their heart they put God to the test By asking food according to their desire.
Psa 78:19 Then they spoke against God; They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
They saw God provide rivers of water as they had asked, but is that enough? No, of course not! Can God give us bread too? And in the middle of this the author calls that discontent sin, putting God to the test.
It seems we are always trying to fill a part of us with something instead of someone. "Stuff" will never bring contentment. Our culture will make sure of that, because as soon as I get the latest and greatest of whatever toy I want then, suddenly, there is an ever better, faster more wonderful one available and I'm unhappy again.
Contentment comes from someone, not something. I see in scripture the clear teaching that contentment is a result of an intimate relationship with God. The "stuff" is another topic altogether. In fact Jesus invites us in the gospels to live our lives with open hands and freely give our "stuff" away. That's hard to do if we consider it the source of our contentment, the reason we are happy.
I love the story that Phillip Yancey tells of a friend who went on a monastic retreat. As the little monk was taking the visitor to his room he said, "Now, if there's anything you need let us know and we will teach you how to live without it."
Although I have no intention of living a monastic lifestyle it's very appealing to me because I wouldn't have all this "stuff" to worry about and drag around.
Paul discovered the secret and talks about it in Philippians. Here is what he said,
Phi 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
Phi 4:12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Phi 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Lord, teach me to be content. Help me to find my contentment in you, and not in the "stuff."
Henry Brandt says it best when he said, "My goal in life is not to get to the end of it and compare my pile of ashes to your pile of ashes."
The stuff will be thrown out, sold, given away, but an intimate relationship with the living God is priceless.
I'll gladly give all my "stuff" to get that!
But somewhere inside of me I hope I don't have to. We are sad creatures, aren't we?
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you're all about
tell the world you're great and not quitting.
And me? I'm a mess. I'm nothing and have nothing:
make something of me.
You can do it; you've got what it takes—
but God, don't put it off!"
Monday, October 10, 2011
Saturday, October 08, 2011
Friday, October 07, 2011
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Very early this morning I awoke to the thoughts of a passage from Isaiah. It's a passage focused on God and his glory. The passage has a wonderful message, but I will get to that in a moment. As I read the word a few hours later I came to these words in Ecclesiastes 5, "...a dream comes when there are many cares." It struck me that my mind, even as I slept and worried, drifted to a passage that addressed my anxious thoughts. The Holy Spirit works like that. Amazing, isn't He?
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
A great help in fearful chaotic times is a focus on the one thing that never changes- God himself! In the middle of a struggling economy, people out of work, friends in Africa who have no food for their children, families and kids struggling, work problems all around, people in crisis in their marriages, the one thing I can know is that the God of the universe is still on the throne, fully in charge of my life and circumstances. He is constantly being worshiped by those around him. That upward look, that glance to the God of glory is often needed for me as I lose my way in the chaos of the days.
The words that came to my mind this morning were these,“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
Monday, October 03, 2011
Sunday, October 02, 2011
Saturday, October 01, 2011
3 What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. 6 The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. 7 Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. 8Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. 11 We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
If you don't see the "big picture" as you read this journal by Solomon you would really get depressed! Man, apart from a meaning and purpose, will simply live out his life, working for food, and then die. It's really a sad story if this is all there is.
As I write this on the first day of October I'm blessed to be sitting at a lake cabin some good friends loaned us for a couple days. A brief getaway, but very refreshing. I'm sitting on the patio, drinking some great coffee and looking at the lake. It's rather cold, but wonderful after the summer we have had. As I read Solomon's words and then copied them here I thought about the brevity of life, the constant search for purpose, significance, for meaning. We work our entire lives to find something worth living for. Finding meaning in life is vital because, as Solomon wrote, if this is all there is then why bother? If all I am is another animal living out my life, but with the sense to know that, this is the cruelest joke of all. Even my dog has a better life than mine if there is no meaning!
I think this topic is vital to our quest in life...our quest for significance, for meaning. We want our lives to mean something, to make a difference. If this life is all there is then eat, drink and be merry! This topic is the very reason my atheist friends are so angry....they want meaning, purpose, significance in their lives, but believe they are simply animals on the way to the grave and that's the end. If that's all we have to look forward to then I'd be mad too!
But here's the rub to all of this...the fact that I search for more, want more than food and clothing...the innate desire for meaning tells me I'm much more than my dog. It tells me there is more, it draws me out to find it. The desire for meaning is proof that there's something more, that I'm more than just an animal on my way to the grave. Where did that desire, that hunger for meaning come from? If there is no meaning then why do we all desire it? All of this hints at something more, someone more. If my desire for more has no fulfillment then we are the most pathetic of races. As Solomon finishes his journal he concludes this, "here is the conclusion of the matter; Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."
Finding meaning is possible. The very desire to live for something, to leave a mark, to make a difference is the voice of God speaking to each one that there's more. This life is not all there is. There is meaning to find and it's not in the temporal things of this life...it's in God himself and a relationship with him. Finding meaning and purpose are all wrapped up in the God who made us. Until you find him your quest is incomplete.